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Read a recap of the previous chapter here
Cursing, Deborah fell to her knees and tried to find the lighter.
She heard more of the shuffling all around her.
Heard their ragged breathing.
It sounded like there were loads of them now.
And some of them were already beginning to grab her again.
A dozen tiny hands gripped her flesh.
Then the biting began.
First in her shoulder.
Then in her back. Blood began to run down and pool along her waistband.
Haven’t I bled enough in the last twenty four hours? She thought, forlorn.
Her neck began to bleed next.
The mouths pulled greedily at the wounds. Tiny tongues lapped at her bloody skin like slender wet fingers.
Her hands searched the ground for the lighter.
It can’t have gone far.
She flung her elbow back, shattering the skull of one of the ominous creatures.
It fell to the side, whimpering. She felt its convulsions as it slid down her back.
Its death throes rustled the leaves beneath it.
Another took its place.
She felt more tiny teeth drawing blood, plastering her clothes to her skin.
You gotta find that fucking lighter, it’s the only way, she thought.
More teeth needled her, freeing blood in another dozen places.
Worse than the bites – and these were bad enough – was the greedy pull that their tiny mouths gave on her skin. As they drained her blood mouthful by mouthful.
She grunted, gritted her teeth against the pain.
It was painful, but she had endured worse and was still here to tell the tale.
She just wished she’d been at full strength.
This would have been much easier then.
Stop wasting time moping and find that fucking lighter, she thought.
One of the horrific creatures dived on her back.
Its fetid breath steamed in her face, wetting her cheek and making her wince.
It lunged for her throat, and she somehow knew this was the one that had been following her from the start. It was going for the kill.
Her right fist hit it hard in the open mouth.
Teeth split her knuckles in half a dozen places, those same teeth now sharded and embedded in her fist.
The creature spat blood and fell away.
Fuck that was close, he nearly had your throat out.
She knew she was finished if she didn’t find the lighter, so she blotted out the pain that had ignited her nervous system and grimly ran her hands across the floor.
A particularly painful bite – to one of the big bruises Simon had inflicted before she’d escaped – made her wince, but she clamped her teeth down hard enough to make her jaw creak.
Calmly, methodically, she searched the leafy floor for the lighter.
More and more creatures piled on her, so that she must have looked like a rock covered in limpets.
They weighed her down to the point of paralysis, but she forced her hands to move.
Their weight drained her, as did the blood she was losing, and the beating she’d taken the previous night.
She would not accept defeat.
They’ll find me here, flesh hewn from my bones, but I won’t stop till I get that fucking lighter in my hand.
They’ll have to kill me to stop me.
Hope lit up her heart like a solar flare when she felt something hard and smooth.
Grinning from ear to ear, she grabbed it, only to realise that it was a stone.
I’m never going to find it, she thought.
Shut the fuck up and find it.
Do you want to be eaten a-fucking-live?
After an eternity of their teeth carving fresh wounds and her blood being drained, and their weight crushing the life from her, she found something.
She didn’t dare to hope this time, as last time she’d been so bitterly disappointed that she’d contemplated lying down and letting them tear the flesh from her bones.
But it was the lighter.
She raised it to her face with a truly demonic grin.
A quick flick revealed a tiny shower of sparks, like a meteor in a bottle.
This was enough to make the creatures let out a unified high-pitched squeal.
She delighted in their discomfort after the hell they’d forced upon her.
One of them went for her hand, trying to knock the lighter out of it, but she pulled it in hard and dragged the scrawny creature towards her chest.
As it snapped its jaws at her, the dam of her fear broke.
She was royally pissed now.
She slammed her forehead into where its nose should have been.
It fell back, letting out a pitiful cry.
‘I’m going to burn these bastard woods to the ground,’ she giggled, the delirium she’d experienced in Cross’s cage returning, if indeed it had ever left. ‘And you fucking freaks will be ashes in a few minutes.’
Her laugh echoed ominously round the wood.
Some of the creatures were still chowing down on her, but most of them had taken a wary step back.
She flicked the lighter into life, her other hand still holding the whimpering creature to her chest.
The others screeched and slunk back.
Pale, mouths dripping blood like cheap facepaint, shadows cloaking their features, they looked positively demonic.
The creature in her arms let out an ungodly screech.
And she almost felt bad for what she had in mind.
It cried out, trying to get its claws to its eyes to cover them, but she held them firm.
She was amazed by how many of the horrific things there were, but even more amazed that she was going to win.
She slowly backed away, flame still lit.
The flame was starting to singe her thumb, but she knew that if the lighter went out she was as good as dead – the creatures would be more desperate than before to get her while it was dark.
She backed up until her back hit a tree.
Some of the creatures were spitting and snarling, trying to sneak round behind her, but none of them dared brave the light.
They were all roughly two feet away, a tight circle like the schoolyard games of the children of the damned.
She darted her eyes around for the nearest branch, then raised the lighter to it.
The tree was splintered, dry, perfect tinder.
The branch flared up.
The creatures screeched and took another few steps back.
‘Piss off, now and you might live,’ she said, still grinning.
They either didn’t understand or were too hungry to care.
Still they covered their eyes and maintained their position.
She snapped the tree branch off, wielding it like a baseball bat as the creatures tried to sneak in.
The ones behind her tried it, until she turned to face them.
She touched the branch to the rest of the tree and it went up in seconds.
She touched it to the dry leaves at her feet and they lit up too.
Flames blossomed around her feet.
The world was only flames and blood and pain nowadays, so she saw them as friend rather than foe, even when the tongues of fire licked at her own skin.
She calmly walked through the fire, touching the flame to more of the dry trees, but the damage had already been done.
The flames ran along the dry roots like Olympic athletes had before, and soon the whole world around her was ablaze.
The creatures had begun to flee, horrific cries puncturing the crackle of the flames.
She still had hold of the creature.
It looked at her, beseeching mercy or pity, or possibly both.
But she had none.
She threw it to the floor, quickly pinning her foot onto its chest as it tried to roll away.
It screeched and struggled as the flames began to first caress, then consume it.
She held it there – laughing the whole time – until it was a blackened husk, until its screams had faded to hoarse whispers.
The others had seen this example and wanted nothing to do it.
They were in full flight now, their tiny pale frames disappearing into the flaming trees.
‘You can run but you can’t hide, you fucking freaks,’ she laughed maniacally.
All semblance of pity or empathy had been beaten, cut and burnt out of her by this cruel world.
She lived only to see the suffering of her enemies.
The crackle of the flames all around her filled her ears, the occasional screech of one of the creatures came from the distance.
It was a scene right out of hell.
The pungent stench of burning flesh drifted over once in a while.
‘That’s the smell of karma right there, you pieces of shit,’ she chuckled.
She cupped a hand over her mouth and began making her way through the burning wood.
She fought her way through the flames, narrowly avoiding being hit by blazing, falling branches on more than one occasion, but the creatures had not been so lucky.
Their blackened corpses littered the woods, as stiff and shiny as the trees had been.
The forest seemed to go on forever, made worse by the flames and smoke that made her vision flicker, blurring her perception of things.
More than once she thought she wasn’t going to make it, but eventually, her battered body reached the end of the forest.
Next chapter is here